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J Orthop Res. 2018 Feb 12. doi: 10.1002/jor.23870. [Epub ahead of print]

Contribution of facet joints, axial compression, and composition to human lumbar disc torsion mechanics.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of California Berkeley, Etcheverry Hall, Berkeley, California 94720.
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of California Davis, Medical Center, Sacramento, California 95817.


Stresses applied to the spinal column are distributed between the intervertebral disc and facet joints. Structural and compositional changes alter stress distributions within the disc and between the disc and facet joints. These changes influence the mechanical properties of the disc joint, including its stiffness, range of motion, and energy absorption under quasi-static and dynamic loads. There have been few studies evaluating the role of facet joints in torsion. Furthermore, the relationship between biochemical composition and torsion mechanics is not well understood. Therefore, the first objective of this study was to investigate the role of facet joints in torsion mechanics of healthy and degenerated human lumbar discs under a wide range of compressive preloads. To achieve this, each disc was tested under four different compressive preloads (300-1200 N) with and without facet joints. The second objective was to develop a quantitative structure-function relationship between tissue composition and torsion mechanics. Facet joints have a significant contribution to disc torsional stiffness (∼60%) and viscoelasticity, regardless of the magnitude of axial compression. The findings from this study demonstrate that annulus fibrosus GAG content plays an important role in disc torsion mechanics. A decrease in GAG content with degeneration reduced torsion mechanics by more than an order of magnitude, while collagen content did not significantly influence disc torsion mechanics. The biochemical-mechanical and compression-torsion relationships reported in this study allow for better comparison between studies that use discs of varying levels of degeneration or testing protocols and provide important design criteria for biological repair strategies. © 2018 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res.


composition; degeneration; facet joints; intervertebral disc; torsion

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